Tag Archives: Mario Batali

Mario Batali Market Sued For Disability Discrimination

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Tarry Market, a specialty foods store in Port Chester, New York owned by restaurateurs Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, has been sued by a former employee who alleges that she was discriminated against and ultimately fired due to her physical disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and New York Human Rights Law.

Ivana Hidalgo claims in a federal court Complaint that Tarry Market managers denied her requests for reasonable accommodations and terminated her because of her disability. Hidalgo was involved in a serious car accident requiring surgery that left the bones in one leg more than an inch shorter than the other leg. Hidalgo requested that she sometimes be able to sit or rest against a stool while working, an accommodation that managers originally agreed to but then disallowed, stating that employees should not be sitting at work. The complaint alleges that Hidalgo continued working after her stool was taken away, even though she was in pain, but after missing work due to illness exacerbated by the company’s lack of accommodations, she was fired.

The lawsuit seeks lost wages as well as compensatory and punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.

Beverly Hills Restaurant Sued for Wage Pay Violations

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The New York Times has reported that Urasawa, one of the country’s best sushi restaurants, has been sued by its back of the house employees for wage and overtime violations.

The New York Times article reports that, according to a California Labor Department investigation and former employees, kitchen workers at the Beverly Hills restaurant are routinely denied overtime pay and forbidden from taking breaks.

A lawyer for one of the workers noted that, “people might expect paying so much means that workers are getting paid.”  In New York, attorneys have filed lawsuits in the last few years against some of the best restaurants in the city.  Some of the highest rated restaurants that have been hit with similar lawsuits in New York include restaurants owned by Mario Batali and Sparks Steakhouse.

Landmark Decisions for Waiters’ Rights in Batali and Pier Sixty Cases

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On September 13, New York federal court Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis approved a $5.25 million dollar settlement between current and former tipped service workers and Mario Batali’s eight New York City restaurants: Babbo, Bar Jamon, Casa Mono, Del Posto, Esca, Lupa, Otto, and Tarry Lodge.  The following day, September 14, New York federal court judge Paul A. Engelmayer gave final approval to an $8.5 million settlement agreement between Pier Sixty, a premier banquet hall in New York City, and current and former workers of the catering hall for alleged unfair wage practices and other violations of waiters’ rights.

The Batali lawsuit, which was filed in 2010, alleged that the Batali restaurants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law by: (1) unlawfully deducting the equivalent of four to five percent of each shift’s wine or alcoholic beverage sales from the tip pool; (2) unlawfully taking a “tip credit” and paying the waitstaff less than the minimum wage; and (3) failing to pay employees spread-of-hours pay when they worked more than ten hours in a day.

The Batali Settlement creates a fund of $5,250,000 for approximately 1,100 class members.  The eligible employees consist of all individuals who worked at the restaurants as captains, servers, waiters, waitresses, bussers, runners, back waiters, bartenders, and/or barbacks from July 22, 2004 to February 14, 2012.  The Batali restaurant workers will receive a proportional share of the Settlement based on the number of hours they worked, the restaurant at which they worked, and the percentage of total tips received during their employment.

The Pier Sixty Complaint, which was filed in 2008, alleged that the banquet facility misappropriated gratuities when it charged its customers a 20-22% service charge but failed to distribute the service charge monies in full to its waitstaff.  The lawsuit also alleged that the banquet hall failed to pay its workers overtime pay as required under the law.  The Pier Sixty Settlement Agreement creates a fund of $8,500,000 for approximately 2,300 class members who were banquet servers any time between November 25, 2002 and February 24, 2012.

The Batali settlement of $5.25 million is a record for a multiple restaurant case in New York.  The $8.5 million settlement in the Pier Sixty case is the largest payment to date of any reported wage and hour lawsuit in the New York hospitality industry.  The record for a single restaurant settlement in New York is $3.15 million for the 2009 settlement involving Sparks Steakhouse.

Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) is Accused of Intimidation and Harassment

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Restaurant Opportunity Center (ROC) has been accused of harassment by Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican from California. The House Committee of Oversight and Government Reform is inquiring into the Department of Labor’s support for ROC.

Congressman Issa’s letter to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis states that “ROC’s history of intimidation towards opponents and management problems with its own restaurant raises significant questions about why DOL decided to form an alliance with and provide federal funding to the organization.” Citing media reports, Congressman Issa stated as follows:

ROC targets restaurants that it believes have subpar safety or workplace conditions and demands that the restaurant pay a monetary award. When a restaurant resists these demands, ROC organizes large protests outside the restaurant, harasses patrons who want to enter and eat in the restaurant, and even place giant inflatable cockroaches outside of the restaurant. In one example, ROC repeatedly harassed celebrity Chef Mario Batali’s restaurant in New York City, forcing Mr. Batali to obtain a restraining order against ROC.

ROC was founded in New York after September 11, 2001 in response to the loss of many restaurant jobs. ROC’s stated mission is “to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s low-wage restaurant work force.” In 2009 ROC received a $275,000 grant from the DOL through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Susan Harwood program, whose purpose is to educate restaurant employers and workers on prevention of health and safety hazards, as well as inform workers of their rights.

Batali Restaurants to Pay $5.25 Million to Settle Wage Claims

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Tipped service workers at Mario Batali’s eight New York City restaurants, including Babbo, Bar Jamon, Casa Mono, Del Posto, Esca, Lupa, Otto, and Tarry Lodge, have settled their wage and hour class and collective action for $5,250,000, according to a stipulation filed in federal court.

The workers alleged that the Batali restaurants violated the FLSA and NYLL by: (1) unlawfully deducting the equivalent of four to five percent of each shift’s wine or alcoholic beverage sales from the tip pool; (2) unlawfully taking a “tip credit” and paying the service staff less than the minimum wage; and (3) failing to pay employees spread-of-hours pay when they worked more than ten hours in a day.

Workers will receive a proportional share of the Settlement Fund based on the number of hours they worked, the restaurant at which they worked, the percentage of total tips received during their employment, and whether they opted in to the collective.

The Settlement Agreement creates a fund of $5,250,000 for approximately 1,100 class members.  The eligible employees consist of all individuals who worked at the restaurants as captains, servers, waiters, bussers, runners, back waiters, bartenders, and/or barbacks from July 22, 2004 to February 14, 2012.

This settlement, which is still subject to Court approval, would be a record for a “multiple restaurant” case in New York.  The record for a single restaurant settlement in New York is $3.15 million for the case involving Sparks Steakhouse.

Waiters’ Lawsuit Against Batali Restaurants for Skimming Tips Moves Forward

mario batali simple italian food book

The tip skimming lawsuit against Mario Batali’s group of New York Italian restaurants has moved to the class certification stage.

On May 9, 2011, United States District Court Judge Richard Holwell granted conditional certification of a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to waiters and bartenders who were employed by the eight Batali restaurants in the New York area:  Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, Otto, Casa Mono, Bar Jamon, Esca, Lupa, Del Posto, and Tarry Lodge.

The employees allege that the restaurants share a policy of deducting a portion of wine sales (typically 4% or 4.5%) from the tip pool and giving it to the house.  In support of the lawsuit, the workers provided pre-printed tip worksheets which contained a space for the deduction, suggesting that the policy was applied uniformly across the Batali restaurants.  In accordance with Judge Holwell’s decision, a Notice of Lawsuit should be going out to tipped employees at all eight of Batali’s restaurants in the weeks ahead, giving the workers an opportunity to join the FLSA case.

Batali Gets Temporary Restraining Order Against Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York To Stop Protests at Del Posto Restaurant

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Iron Chef Mario Batali has turned the tables on the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY), lodging a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the advocacy group which had filed a lawsuit in October against Batali’s restaurant Del Posto for allegedly stealing tips and wages.  A temporary restraining order issued by New York State Supreme Court Justice Eileen Rakower on November 23 prohibits ROC-NY from engaging in a variety of demonstration tactics.

The lawsuit claims that ROC-NY engaged in a campaign of unlawful harassment, intimidation, vandalism, and violence against restaurants owned by Batali and Joseph Bastianich, including destroying and defacing the restaurants, terrorizing and physically intimidating employees and diners at restaurants, making violent threats, blocking ingress and egress, and making harassing telephone calls designed to interfere with service to customers.

According to the lawsuit, ROC-NY’s modus operandi is to “organize weekly demonstrations outside the target restaurant by employing ‘rent-a-mobs’ consisting of ROC-NY members, union operatives, students, and political activists – with almost no actual restaurant workers.”  The evening of November 13 was particularly raucous at Del Posto, according to the Complaint:

At approximately 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 13, 2010, a large group of ROC-NY members and associates arrived at Del Posto and began demonstrating in a violent and aggressive manner.  Among other things, the “protesters”:  (i) physically blocked passage into the restaurant; (ii) jumped, ran around, and slammed into each other in front [of] the restaurant’s entrance and in close proximity to arriving guests, leaving patrons emotionally shocked and physically threatened; (iii) aggressively shoved flyers into the faces of arriving and departing guests; (iv) threatened patrons not to cross their “picket line,” and verbally assaulted, abused, harassed those who did, including a bride and groom in full wedding attire and other members of the wedding party having an event at Del Posto; (v) physically surrounded the entranceways to the restaurant, making it difficult and uncomfortable for guests and employees to enter; and (vi) yelled, screamed, and banged objects so loudly that it could be heard inside the restaurant, alarming employees and guests, and disrupting Del Posto’s business.

The temporary restraining order obtained by Batali’s restaurants prevents ROC-NY demonstrators from coming within 200 feet of any Batali/Bastianich restaurants, from calling the restaurants, and from making noise that has the purpose to disrupt customers.

Mario Batali Faces Another Lawsuit For Allegedly Taking Tips

Coming on the heels of a four star review by the New York Times, Mario Batali’s Del Posto restaurant was sued by 27 former and current workers for taking tips from its staff.

The lawsuit against Batali and Del Posto, which was filed on October 12, 2010, alleges a variety of labor law violations including that management took a percentage of its nightly sales out of the tip pool and the restaurant workers at banquets received a flat rate of pay and did not receive the 23% service charge that customers were charged.  The lawsuit against Batali and Del Posto also claims that the restaurant did not pay the spread of hours pay required by New York law and did not reimburse the restaurant workers for the cost of laundering their uniforms.

Iron Chef Morimoto Sued for Tip Skimming

Masaharu Morimoto and his upscale New York restaurant Morimoto were sued by a barback in a class action lawsuit for cheating the restaurant’s workers out of tips.

The case against Morimoto contains three main allegations.  First, the lawsuit claims that non-service employees such as silver polishers participated in the tip pool.  Second, the lawsuit claims that Morimoto kept gratuities for banquets and private events which should have been distributed to the service staff.  Third, the lawsuit claims Morimoto failed to pay its workers “spread of hours” pay.

Morimoto is the third Iron Chef to have his flagship New York restaurant sued for wage and hour violations.  Earlier this year Bobby Flay settled a case with workers from his restaurants Mesa Grill, Bar Americain, and Bolo who alleged that Flay improperly included managers and other non-service employees in the tip pool, failed to pay overtime, and had employees working “off the clock.”  Mario Batali’s restaurants Babbo, Bar Jamon, Casa Moni, Otto Enoteca, and Tarry Lodge were also sued this year for alleged wage and hour violations.  The principal claim against Batali was that he skimmed from the tip pool “an amount equal to 4.5% of the restaurant’s nightly wine and beverage sales.”

These cases highlight the depth of wage and hour violations that are occurring in the New York restaurant industry.  Iron Chefs Batali, Flay, and Morimoto can whip up five dishes from a “secret ingredient” in sixty minutes.  But like many restaurants in New York, these Iron Chefs have found it difficult to slice and dice through the complicated wage and hour laws and regulations.

Iron Chef Mario Batali Served with Tip Skimming Lawsuit

The recent lawsuit against Iron Chef Mario Batali’s restaurants Babbo, Bar Jamon, Casa Moni, Otto Enoteca, and Tarry Lodge underscores the rampant wage and hour abuses in New York restaurants.  Continue reading Iron Chef Mario Batali Served with Tip Skimming Lawsuit